Planning meals can be daunting, but it doesn’t need to be—especially with these lunch packing tips from the Fresh Thyme Farmers Market Registered Dietitians.
Eating food from all five food groups is essential for growth and development. Kids ages 1 to 5 have smaller stomachs and need small, frequent meals four to six times a day. A rule of thumb is 1 tablespoon of each food group per year of age. Focus on finger foods with familiar textures and flavors. Include at least three different-color fruits or veggies on each plate. Kids may have fun making faces out of their foods or helping stir ingredients.
Protein is a key component and should be one-fourth of your child’s plate. Easy protein sources include nut and seed butters, beans, cheeses, meats, and yogurts. Don’t forget carbohydrates like popcorn, whole wheat crackers, pasta, and rice cakes. Keep the carbs to one-fourth of the plate.
As your kids grow and change, so do their taste buds and eating habits. Get your kiddos involved in shopping and meal prepping. Kids can learn to measure ingredients and add them to recipes. Guide their meal choices. Ask them, “Would you like grapes or a banana in your lunch,” or “Would you like chicken salad or tuna salad?” Keep it simple with make-ahead or grab-and-go items. When kids are involved in the meal-planning process, they are more likely to eat and enjoy the food prepped for them.
Adolescence is a key time for growth spurts that lead to bone and lean muscle mass development. Foods filled with calcium, iron, and vitamin A help kids reach appropriate height and bone density. One-fourth of a teenager’s total food intake comes from snacks. Choose things like easy grab-and-go tuna packets paired with baby carrots, or hard-boiled eggs paired with string cheese and trail mix containing nuts. Teenagers are likely able to purchase their own snacks when they’re away from home, but the healthy habits you instill in them from an early age will help them make better choices long term.